This website use cookies and similar technologies to improve the site and to provide customised content and advertising. By using this site, you agree to this use. To learn more, including how to change your cookie settings, please view our Cookie Policy
Pocketmags Digital Magazines
GB
Pocketmags Digital Magazines
   You are currently viewing the United Kingdom version of the site.
Would you like to switch to your local site?
Digital Subscriptions >  Latest Articles > Frisian Flag a Dutch Master Class

Frisian Flag a Dutch Master Class
AIR International

Frisian Flag a Dutch Master Class

Posted 23 May 2015   |   2130 views   |   Aviation & Transport   |   Comments (0) After two successive years of cancellation, in April Leeuwarden AB once again hosted exercise Frisian Flag. Kees van der Mark and Arnaud Boxman report

The previous edition of Frisian Flag, the annual large-scale air exercise organised by the Koninklijke Luchtmacht (Royal Netherlands Air Force, RNLAF), was a big success.  That is, until the ash cloud resulting from the Eyjafjallaj?kull volcano eruption in Iceland came in from the north on April 15, 2010, forcing the organising No.323 Tactical Training, Evaluation and Standardisation (TACTES) Squadron to suspend flying activities on the fourth day of the two-week exercise.  In the second week the participating RNLAF F-16s resumed flying – the other nations decided to redeploy their jets from Leeuwarden as soon as the opportunity was there, to prevent them from being stuck in the Netherlands for a longer period in case the situation deteriorated further.  Frisian Flag 2011, scheduled to run in July 2011, fell victim to the busy operational agenda of the RNLAF F-16 community, in particular the involvement in Operation Unified Protector over Libya and the ongoing operations in Afghanistan.

This year, Frisian Flag was back with the largest edition since the exercise was first held in 1992.

Low-Cost
Since its inception, Frisian Flag has more than proven itself as a low-cost alternative to the ‘Flag’ exercises held in North America.  “We want to train our pilots to plan, execute and extensively debrief large-scale COMAO [combined air operations] packages in realistic scenarios, and we ask other air forces to join us,” said Capt Jos a pilot with No.323 TACTES Squadron and this year’s Frisian Flag project officer.  “There is no participation fee involved, participants just pay for their own expenses, like accommodation and fuel.”  One of the exercise objectives is described as “to establish multinational relationships between NATO and non-NATO [Partnership for Peace – PfP] countries.”

With so many and diverse participants, there is a lot of experience gathering at Leeuwarden during the Frisian Flag exercises.  Lessons learned from recent operations, including those of NATO and PfP air forces over Libya and Afghanistan, but also from other exercises held recently, are all taken into account and integrated into the exercise scenarios.

Leeuwarden is ideally situated close to the vast training area over the North Sea, which covered roughly 180 x 145nm (330 x 270km) in Dutch, German and Danish Temporary Reserved Airspace (TRA) areas for this year’s exercise.  Overland training areas were added to provide additional training value, although these were minimally utilized to comply with noise abatement. 
Although the Cornfield range at the isle of Vlieland is located close to Leeuwarden, the use of live or even practice bombs was not part of the exercise.  “The use of weapons, either air-to-air or air-to-ground, is all simulated,” said Capt Jos.  One of the reasons for this is that “we cannot afford to take any risks with aircraft loaded with live weapons when so many jets have to use the same runway for take-offs and landings at Leeuwarden,” according to the project officer.  All missions were flown during the day and the jets took off without the use of afterburners when possible.  Again, this was done to minimize noise, since the air base is located relatively close to the city of Leeuwarden and some surrounding villages.

Missions
Between April 16 and 27, up to 60 aircraft took to the air twice a day for a Frisian Flag mission.  During the ten flying days, the organisation built up a ‘war’ in a so-called building block approach, in which the scenarios increase in complexity as the exercise develops.  In line with common practice the participating fighters and bombers were assigned to a large Blue Air force and a smaller, opposing Red Air force.  Almost every possible aspect of current day air operations was practised, as Capt Jos explained: “Most missions are offensive counter air [OCA], including time-sensitive missions.  On some days, we also fly defensive counter air [DCA] missions.  All missions are flown under high-threat level.  Sorties flown during Frisian Flag include air defence, elimination of static and dynamic targets on the ground or at sea, protection of high-value air assets [HVAA] such as AWACS and tanker aircraft, and protection of slow-movers and CSAR helicopters. Usually, many aspects are combined within a single mission, that lasts no longer than an hour and a half on average.  Nevertheless, the pilots spent at least ten hours on planning, briefing, executing and debriefi ng each mission.”

No.323 TACTES Squadron has large debriefing facilities, enabling all participants to analyse each mission thoroughly during a mass debrief.  All participating aircraft carry GPS trackers, and a special computer program was used to ‘stitch’ together all GPS data to create a ‘God’s eye view’, giving a better understanding of exactly what happened during the missions.
Supporting Assets
A RNLAF Fokker 50 was called upon to play the role of slow-mover, with the aircraft operating out of Leeuwarden on three occasions.  Although the RNLAF’s two Fokker 50s were officially taken out of service on October 1, 2010, as a cost-saving measure, they have not been sold to date.  Pending a possible sale, they continue flying – albeit a limited number of hours annually – to keep them airworthy.  Leeuwarden-based AB-412SP helicopters of No.303 SAR Squadron acted as CSAR assets within the scenario.  Aircraft specialising in electronic warfare (EW) operated from Leeuwarden as well.  These included a Learjet 36A from Eelde-based Skyline Aviation in the fi rst week of the exercise, and a Royal Norwegian Air Force Falcon 20ECM from the Forsvarets Elektronisk Krigf?ring St?ttesenter (FEKS - Air Force Electronic Warfare Support Centre) 717 Skvadron at Rygge in the second week.

Working alongside the Red Air fighters were ground-based air defence units located in the Marnewaard military training area, at the Cornfield range and various other spots in the exercise area.  These included Dutch Patriot surface-to-air missile (SAM) batteries defending the northern part of the Netherlands, as well as a Russian-built SA-6 Gainful SAM system.  “The latter is a real threat system operated by the German Bundeswehr, not a simulated system.  It was placed in a location unknown to the pilots, to add some surprise for them,” according to the project officer.  Inflatable targets combined with ‘smokey SAMs’ were also used to provide an extra realistic touch to the training.

The RNLAF Air Operations and Control Station (AOCS) in Nieuw Milligen and the German Control and Reporting Centre (CRC) in Sch?newalde, together with the AWACS’, provided the air picture for the participants.  Similar to 2010, the Dutch tri-service National Datalink Management Cell (NDMC) deployed to Leeuwarden for the duration of the exercise.  The NDMC not only manages Link 16 systems, its operators can also add virtual assets to the exercise.  Joint Tactical Air Controllers (JTACs) from the Special Forces within the Royal Netherlands Army and the Royal Netherlands Marine Corps, working in both the Netherlands and Germany, guided the jets to their targets during close air support (CAS) operations.

Read the full article in the FREE sample issue of Air International only at pocketmags here: http://bit.ly/1KeC6JG

For more great articles like this get the issue of AIR International below or subscribe and save.

Single Issue - September 2018 Replica Edition included
£3.99
Or 399 points
Annual Digital Subscription
Only £ 2.92 per issue
SAVE
27%
£34.99
Or 3499 points
Monthly Digital Subscription
Only £ 2.99 per issue
SAVE
25%
£2.99
Or 299 points
6 Month Digital Subscription
Only £ 3.33 per issue
SAVE
16%
£19.99
Or 1999 points

View Issues

About AIR International

AIR International has established an unrivalled reputation for authoritative reporting and coverage of the full spectrum of aviation subjects. We have more correspondents and top aviation writers from around the world, offering even more exciting new

More great content like this...

For more great articles like this subscribe to AIR International today.

Most read articles this month


ALEX HILDRED: MARY ROSE DIVER

ALEX HILDRED: MARY ROSE DIVER

When she took up scuba 40 years ago, Alexandra Hildred had no idea that her life would become inextricably linked with a Tudor warship. Now the Mary Rose Trust’s Head of Research and Curator of Ordnance & Human Remains, she tells STEVE WEINMAN about the lead-up to the raising of the iconic wreck, still one of the biggest such operations ever attempted. More...
The 5 Best Photography Magazines

The 5 Best Photography Magazines

Here at pocketmags.com, we have the 5 best photography magazines to inspire and inform your skills and get you snapping away with your beloved camera of choice! More...
The 5 Best Arts & Crafts Magazines

The 5 Best Arts & Crafts Magazines

From the early days of digging our hands into playdough and getting messy with paper mache, to growing up and learning how to meticulously operate a needle and thread for the very first time, we will always have the wonderful movement of arts and crafts to thank for these simple pleasures of life. More...
The 5 Best Gardening Magazines

The 5 Best Gardening Magazines

It’s time to literally stop and smell the roses and grow a patch of paradise that you can not only enjoy but also, be the proud owner of. Give the birds and butterflies a reason to mingle amongst the tulips and a chance for your garden to be the best it can be. More...
The 5 Best Knitting Magazines

The 5 Best Knitting Magazines

To help pass a rainy day away or to practice amongst friends, knitting is one of the great historical pastimes suitable for anyone, anywhere. At Pocketmags we have the 5 best knitting magazines to help get the needle in motion! More...
THE U-BOAT COAST

THE U-BOAT COAST

The WW1 U-boats at Pendennis have been dived for many years, by many people. The site is probably the second most popular shore-dive in Cornwall. Thousands of trainees did their first open-water dives there, most seeing the remains of one or two of the U-boats. Not sure what to write into their log-books, other than 'Silver Steps’ or ‘Pendennis’, what were these subs? MARK MILBURN investigates, and believes he can now paint a clearer picture of what lies where and why More...
The 5 Best Art & Painting Magazines

The 5 Best Art & Painting Magazines

With the 5 best art and painting magazines from Pocketmags, you’ll never be stuck staring at a blank canvas for hours again. Discover the expert advice, guidance, tutorials and motivation you need to create the art and paintings you love! More...
The 5 Best Fishing Magazines

The 5 Best Fishing Magazines

Avid fisher? Or simply passionate about the pastime? Feed your fishing thrills with our 5 best fishing magazines from Pocketmags and cast your line with confidence today! More...
IMAGINE MESSI TEACHING YOU TO PLAY FOOTBALL

IMAGINE MESSI TEACHING YOU TO PLAY FOOTBALL

Not all ‘pro’ photo workshops are the same – on some you just pay and hope. But what’s it like learning to get the best from your camera under water from a recognised master? HENLEY SPIERS studies at the school of Mustard More...
A Review of Dazed Magazine by Pocketmags

A Review of Dazed Magazine by Pocketmags

It is not about the latest ‘it’ bag or must-have accessory of the season, it is not about which celebrity was the best-dressed at last week’s awards ceremony or who has committed a serious fashion faux-pas. It is fully about redefining the status quo and challenging our conception of beauty - it is the one and the only Dazed magazine. More...
Vouchers Gift Cards A magazine subscription is the perfect gift but you'll need something to show on the big day. View All
Ways to Pay Pocketmags Payment Types
At Pocketmags you get Secure Billing Great Offers HTML Reader Gifting options Loyalty Points